Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm On to You, Brain

Today I had a thought concerning the idea I've had all along--that the bad brain chemistry that produces the pain is actually a physical phenomenon and therefore should be treated as such.  If you have a headache or a backache or a stomach ache, you don't start thinking of what has gone wrong with your life to make you feel so bad.  You don't start wondering what you can change in your life to make the headache or backache or stomach ache go away. You just go looking for a remedy.  You don't blame yourself or your spouse or your boss for your stomach ache (although maybe you do if you think it's due to stress).  You just look for a way to make it go away.

Brain chemistry pain is the same. It's a temporary condition that will go away in time.  You don't have to change your life to make it go away.  And even if the pain is severe and chronic, if it's physical pain you don't assume getting a new job is the answer to your future happiness.  Unless there's a definite connection between your work and your pain (your assembly line job is causing you carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance), you don't blame your surroundings.  You seek to change only what you need to change to go on with your day.

But when you're in the midst of a bad brain chemistry attack, you don't at first think to ignore it.  It's so painful and so sudden that it's really hard to ignore.  About an hour ago I had such a feeling.  It swept over me like a sudden downpour.  I felt terrible instantly.  I couldn't help reacting with an impulse to do something to make it go away.  The quickest action is to eat something like chocolate or other fat/sweet substance.  I tried instead to make myself pay attention to the feeling.  What is the physical part of it? How is it different from feeling "normal"?

Since I'm feeling that way right now, I can tell you that it's not easy.  It's like a hot flash.  You try to remedy it before you know the reason it's happening.  Over the years I've had hot flashes, I've taken to asking people around me, "Is it hot in here or is it me?" before I go to change the thermostat or complain about the temperature in the room. Usually people will answer, sometimes with a slightly amused look, as if they are aware of the reason I'm asking.  Pretty safe bet, knowing my approximate age (and gender).

So, what does the bad brain chemistry flash feel like? Well, I think my heart rate goes up, though I can't say for sure.  My breathing gets shallow, I think. I feel kind of nervous-fluttery.  Is this the fight or flight response? Maybe.  Maybe it is.  Can I ignore it?  No, it's hard to ignore.  But can I not react?  Maybe.  Maybe I can do what I do when I feel a hot flash come over me, sometimes--wait a few minutes and do nothing.  Say to myself: Oh, this is a temporary bad feeling. It will pass momentarily. It's just my brain doing this to me. After all, the brain is what produces the hot flash, too.  The brain produces the cravings that lead to addictive behavior.  The brain does a lot of things based on internal signals that are not really connected to the external world.  The brain doesn't necessarily need to be obeyed.  The brain can be ignored by the conscious mind, if the conscious mind is alert and ready to get involved.

Maybe I can make this work.  Just say something like, "Okay, brain, I'm on to you. So just get it over with, would you? I've got things to do." I'm going to have to try that method, see how it works.

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